BA Politics and Modern History / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Religion in Modern South Asian History

Unit code RELT10222
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Religions & Theology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This unit explores the religious traditions of South Asia in the context of developing modernity, with a particular focus on the region that is now India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Rather than being focused on one religion, it looks at a range of Hindu, Islamic and Sikh traditions, asking how they were shaped by the colonial encounter with Britain in the 19th Century, and how they have developed in the post-colonial, contemporary period.  In the course of this historically- situated enquiry, key elements of these religious traditions will be examined, so that students will acquire a sound foundational knowledge of some of the key concepts that underpin Hindu, Muslim and Sikh worldviews as they have emerged in modern South Asia.  In the process, students will also gain knowledge and understanding of the modern history and culture of this critical area of the world, home to approximately a quarter of the world’s population. 


  • To examine some key concepts in the development of modern South Asian religious traditions
  • To consider the significance of historical context to an understanding of these concepts
  • To develop skills of critical analysis through the examination of specific texts/events and their meanings
  • To develop skills of research and critical enquiry appropriate to the University learning environment

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will:


The unit begins with a critical examination of the idea of ‘religion’ in relation to South Asian religious traditions.  It then explores various aspects of these traditions – including concepts of God, sacred text, caste and religious community – as practiced, thought and written about during the period of British colonialism in the region.  The unit then moves to an examination of some more contemporary contexts, examining issues such as shrine worship, myth, religious images and sacred spaces.  In all cases these religious concepts and issues are approached via case studies, examining their situated and frequently contested meanings in social and political context. 

Teaching and learning methods

Lecture and seminar mix, supported by BB materials including film and primary source materials where relevant.  

Knowledge and understanding

  • Have gained an understanding of some key concepts related to modern South Asian religious traditions
  • Be able to locate the development of these concepts in the context of social and political history

Intellectual skills

By the end of this unit students will

  • Have developed a critical awareness of the relationship between texts and contexts
  • Have developed an appreciation of the significance of conceptual interpretation as a feature of academic work
  • Have had experience of generating research questions as an integrated feature of the research process.

Practical skills

By the end of this unit students will

  • Have developed skills of note-taking on the basis of critical engagement with academic texts
  • Have practiced discussion in small groups as a feature of the learning process

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this unit students will

  • Have gained skills of critical analysis
  • Have gained a critical awareness of the development of religious traditions as a feature of the modern world

Employability skills

Communication skills Research skills Political and cultural awareness

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)











1 hour



Feedback methods


Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback on the formative assignment


Written feedback on summative essay and exam


Oral feedback on summative essay question and plans



Recommended reading

Davis, R. (1995), ‘Introduction: A brief history of religions in India’, in D. Lopez (ed), Religions of India in Practice (Princeton: Princeton University Press)

Fuller, Christopher (2004), The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India (Princeton: Princeton University Press)

Hirst, Jacqueline, and John Zavos (2011), Religious Traditions in Modern South Asia, London: Routledge

King, Richard (1999), Orientalism and Religion (London: Routledge)

Knott, Kim (2016), Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Mittal, S. and G. Thursby (eds) (2006), Religions of South Asia: an Introduction, New York: Routledge

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 156

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Ketan Alder Unit coordinator

Additional notes

A full description of this course can be found in MyManchester.

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